University of Birmingham Sport (UBSport) hosted the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Cross Country Championships, for the first time in the event’s history, and had a huge victory by collecting three gold, two silver and two bronze medals.
Over 1,200 athletes travelled from all corners of the UK to race against blustering winds in at Senneleys Park, Birmingham on Saturday, February 5, with almost 90 of them donning the red, blue and gold kit on behalf of the UBSport Athletics and Cross Country Club.
UBSport got off to a fantastic start - the Men’s A race being one of the most exciting 10k runs at the BUCS Cross Country Championships in recent years, with the lead changing twice in the final 300 metres.
It was a cagey start with twenty runners from the 257 finishers in the front group, and both UBSport and St. Mary’s were prominent throughout the first half.
With one lap left to go the group whittled down to ten front runners, with Nick Goolab (third year Mathematics) and James Wilkinson (third year Sport and Exercise Sciences) leading the charge for UBSport, however Ross Murray from St. Mary’s was hot on their heels.
On the final series of hill Nick looked to have pulled away with only Ross in shooting distance, but the last downhill Ross charged past Nick and looked set to claim first place.
However, Nick rallied his final energy reserves to storm to victory in fine fashion crossing, the line at 34.55, three seconds ahead of his competitor from St. Mary’s and 15 seconds from James who placed third.
Nick’s win was even more impressive taking in to consideration he had been battling illness in the week preceding the event.
Talking after his victory, Nick said, ‘I’m really happy with the race, and considering I’ve been ill with a head cold I don’t think I could have done any better. Running on the home course and for Birmingham in the biggest BUCS event for us and winning, it is just fantastic.’
He added: ‘To win the team race as well was just brilliant and there isn’t much more we could have asked for.’
Nick and James were backed by Alex Tovey (third year Sport and Exercise Sciences) in 10th and Josh Lilley (Biology PhD) in 11th to claim the team gold with 25 points. A full nine points ahead of St. Marys.
James said, ‘The support today has been great, but it was tough running against the strong wind and I became tired from pushing on. I’m pleased with my run, I’m five places up from last year and the team gold is a big positive.’
The second race of the day was the Women’s 7k, which had over 318 finishers.
The strength of the field for this race was the best of the day with all the top ten finishers having previously represented their respective countries for this sport.
UBSport were led home by Hannah Walker (first year Human Biology) who placed fifth with a time of 28.36, and it was clear she relished the hilly and technical course. Just two seconds behind was Sara Treacy (fourth year Medicine) and Lauren Howarth contributed massively with 10th place at 29.30, meaning the girls team scored a total of 21 points and gained the team silver medal.
With the main races completed, the final competition of the day was the 8k Men’s B race, which gave the remainder of the 284 finishers chance to battle it out to prove which University has the greatest depth in their squad.
Carl Smith (third year Sport and Exercise Sciences) executed perfect tactics to place first with a time of 28.20, and last year’s winner of this race Dan Clorley (second year Business Management) worked hard in his first race of the winter after returning from injury to win bronze medal with a time of 28.27.
With further scoring performances from Jack Swallow (third year SPECS) in 12th and triathlete Oliver Ziff (third year Medicine intercalating with Medical Sciences) in 15th, the men’s team returned to campus with the team silver.
Athletics and Cross Country Head Coach, Mike Bull said: ‘As well as excellent individual and team performance, a big thank you has to go to Head Cross Country Coach Bud Baldaro, and his assistants Bob Ashwood and Sally Straw for their hard work throughout the year in preparing the athletes for this competition.’
He continued: ‘I would also like to thank the UBSport and University staff, led by Sport Development Manager Sue Briggs, for organising this event so well and making it a memorable day. Overall it has been an outstanding team effort and performance, made all the sweeter being on home turf with many UBSport staff there to cheer them on.’
For full results please visit www.bucs.org.uk